[MUD-Dev] Structured Social Play

Christopher Allen ChristopherA at skotos.net
Wed Sep 5 09:04:03 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Tom Hubina wrote:
> At 05:34 PM 9/2/2001, John Bueler wrote:

>> The design topic that's currently of most interest to me is that
>> of providing play for casual gamers.  The general idea is that
>> players should feel comfortable getting into the game for only 20
>> minutes or so, and without feeling the need to prepare themselves
>> for an arduous or challenging experience.  This is a play style
>> that I'd like to accomodate, but it needn't necessarily
>> constitute the entire game experience.


> I think you're painting a broad brush with the term "casual
> play". What you describe I would prefer to break into different
> categories that can be addressed.

>   1. Hardcore with too much time on his hands.
>   2. Hardcore with not enough time on his hands.
>   3. Casual.

I agree with Tom that trying to attract the "casual" gamer has some
serious problems because the key to these games is the socialization
and it is very hard to socialize in 20 minutes in all but long-term
strategic (i.e. turn based) games.

I don't believe that enough experimentation with "2. Hardcore with
not enough time on his hands." We have taken a stab at this with our
"Galactic Emperor: Succession" game, in beta at
http://www.skotos.net/games/succession and . We have had mixed
results. Basically GE:S is a short week commitment -- the game
starts on Tuesday and the Emperor is elected (or the empire
overthrown by nasty aliens) by Saturday. Our idea was that many
people are hardcore enough to make a 5 day intensive commitment, but
can't make a multi-month commitment to one of our other games. I
think most of our staff now fall into that gap ;-)

The biggest problem is that even with this shorter length of game,
it has been hard to keep up critical mass, as by our very design you
can play once and not have to play again. This may eventually go
away as the number of players grows. The larger problem is that the
"regulars" are already requesting more continuity -- things like a
month long game, or more "dynasty" features where the players
results in one game will affect their results in a subsequent
game. It is very hard to turn these folks down as they are the core
of the games player base, and without them we might not ever have
sufficient critical mass to grow. But if we satisfy them, the whole
concept of having a game for the "hardcore with not enough time on
his hands" is gone. If we are having these type of socialization
related problems with this type of game, I think the goal of
satisfying the needs of casual gamer is even tougher.

I welcome comments on the game design of GE:S -- take a look at the
rules of the game at the link above, and comment if we are missing
something that might make a difference. We also have a free 30-day
trial membership which is long enough to play several of these games
if you want to give it a try.

-- Christopher Allen

.. Christopher Allen                                 Skotos Tech Inc. ..
..                           1512 Walnut St., Berkeley, CA 94709-1513 ..
.. <http://www.Skotos.net>               o510/647-2760  f510/647-2761 ..

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